Home' Get Up and Go : Autumn 2014 Contents Scenic China with
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��PE�I�N�E ���A ��UR ��Y
Get up and go_177.5x59mm_ autumn.pdf 1 27/02/2014 9:50:23 AM
My day began at 7am with a
90 minute drive south of
Phnom Penh to the Tamao
Wildlife Rescue Centre – an expansive
piece of forest where Sun and Moon
bears are rehabilitated. Each bear has
its own story of struggle and survival.
Some have been kept as pets, rescued
from bile farms or lost limbs in snares;
others that were trained to dance for
tourist dollars have been purchased
in a ‘buy back bears’ scheme. Former
bear owners are encouraged to use the
money to buy an alternative business
such as a tuk tuk for tourist travel.
Upon arrival at the sanctuary’s head
office, it was tough to concentrate on
the brief information induction. This
glassed-in area is part of the playground
of boisterous teenage cubs playing wild
and affectionate games with each other.
When they saw me – a new face
they jostled to get as close as they
could and held up their paws.
There’s something magical about
their faces. When they smiled, I melted
with love. The bears have the fearless
energy of toddlers and their eyes reveal
how excited they are to be in the world.
At first, I was a little daunted by
their claws which are as long as adult
human fingers but they’re not sharp
and the bears use them to climb and
grab just as we use our fingers.
As a bear keeper for a day, my job
was to make and serve the bears’
lunch. ‘Aussie Dog Balls’ are hard,
plastic soccer spheres I filled with
bananas, cinnamon and local honey,
then the entry hole was plugged with a
fistful of Morning Glory.
Seventeen bears in one area of the
sanctuary meant 17 Aussie Dog Balls
had to be tossed into their enclosure.
I was told that once I started, I had
to throw them all as fast and as far as
I could. Speed is important to avoid
When each bear grabbed a dog ball,
they’d roll onto their backs, hold the
ball with three paws, then work hard
to get in at the goodies.
After that, it was time for my locally
made lunch of fish, vegetables and
rice. I had a leisurely hour to eat, rest
up in a shady hammock and enjoy
fascinating conversations with a few
conservationists from different parts
of the world. All kinds of people with
interesting stories come to volunteer
at the sanctuary. It’s easy to make
Another fun activity was the
afternoon ‘forage feed’. All the bears
were temporarily moved out of their
regular enclosures and then, armed with
buckets of tasty fruit and vegetables, I
was inside their habitat. I had to think
hard about where to hide the yummy
morsels because the objective is to
encourage the bears to forage.
The big question I asked myself was
– am I smarter than a bear?
After a while, I was kindly urged
to hurry up because the bears were
Finally let loose, they ran at full speed
and searched for their evening meal.
Armed with two cameras, I marvelled
at how no two bears are alike and how
quickly I got to know them by name.
I also discovered that some bears are
cleverer than others and all of them are
cleverer than me. They found every bit
of food I hid. Easily.
Being a bear keeper for a day helps
the bears and the local community.
I gave my time, a little bit of effort
and gained a better understanding of
On top of all that, it was a really
great day trip.
I can’t wait to do it again with
friends – who just might be smarter
than the average bear! •
Visiting a zoo is a standard, fun tourist
activity but being a bear keeper for a day
in Cambodia is one of the lesser known
activities in a place famous for temples,
beaches and transforming Angelina Jolie
from a Hollywood star into a United Nations’
humanitarian. Renee Brack reports.
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